White Henna

White Henna

I love henna, from the traditional, intricate, Indian patterns to the more modern and dramatic Arabian designs, even the fun, brightly coloured versions which have appeared in the last couple of years.

White henna is apparently the latest thing, and is a star attraction at the Ramadan market in Singapore, so I was very keen to try it out.

But whatever it is, it really isn’t henna, although it is packaged and applied in the same way.

Seriously, it looked and felt like I was being painted with a particularly sticky sort of Tippex, which resolutely refused to dry.

“Come back in 20 minutes and I will put powder on it”, said the lady in charge of the stall where I had this done. But by the time I returned, the design was already the worse for wear. Admittedly, I had been shopping and snacking my way round the market, but even taking care, I found the henna was a nightmare to deal with.

The pattern became blobby and any contact resulted in strings of sticky rubbery material stretching between the design and whatever had touched it. Having what looked like ordinary talc dabbed onto it did somehow ‘set’ what remained, but in retrospect I think it would have been more sensible to sit around the stall for those 20 minutes until the design was ready to be powdered.

As it was, the whole thing looked very messy.

With normal henna, of course, you scrape it off once it is dry and the colour first darkens then fades from your skin over the next 10 days or so. The white henna stays on, but not for very long – 3 to 4 days is supposed to be the limit – although how you keep it intact whilst working, washing and generally getting on with your life, I have no idea.

I found bits peeling away annoyingly before the day was over, and scrubbed the whole thing off before bedtime. It is unlikely I will try this again.

DIY Food Art Transfers

Artistic cooks will probably already own a set of edible ink pens. Looking just like normal felt pens but containing food colouring rather than the usual ink, these are fun to use, especially when decorating cookies and so on for Christmas or birthday parties.

But it’s hard to get too creative, because the end result depends very much on the surface of your cake or cookie – a rough texture leaves you with wobbly lines, and anything porous means the colour can soak in or spread.

This is a fun and fascinating way round those problems, wafer thin film discs made of corn starch on which you can draw your own designs before applying them to the surface of your food. As the discs are completely see-through, you can even use them to trace a picture which you may not have the talent to draw freehand.

In practice, this is a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. The discs are so thin that they curl up with a life of their own, and you need a deft hand to hold them down and complete your artwork successfully. They also dissolve instantly on contact with water, so you have to work smartly to get the picture on the cake rather than on your hands or the table.

I had varying degrees of success whilst experimenting with different surfaces. It was hard to get the bread or the ginger cookie wet enough to hold the picture without it actually dissolving away, and the disc left a slightly slimy layer on top. The yoghurt held the colours beautifully, though, which leads me to suspect that this might work very well indeed if applied to wet frosting.

This was a seasonal special at Tokyu Hands, and for less than S$5 for a container of 50 discs, I think it is a great bargain. I just know it will be a lot of fun to play with when daughters #1 and #2 arrive to celebrate Christmas later this week.